Troops serving in Afghanistan celebrated Christmas with presents from home, a traditional roast turkey lunch and a charity fun run.
About 9,000 servicemen and women are deployed in Helmand province and an extra effort was made yesterday to make sure they were given some “down time”.
At the medical centre in Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, staff opened Secret Santa presents and gifts from family. To the sound of a playlist featuring Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea and Fairytale Of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, the medics tore away wrapping paper to find home comforts such as new socks, underwear and toiletries.
Many wore pyjamas and all-in-one sleepsuits, while eating toasted bacon bagels for breakfast.
Private Amy Louise Johnson, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, who serves with the 3 Medical Regiment, said: “Before I left, I thought I would be sad and missing all my family around the table, but we are such a team here that it’s like having your family with you. I think it’s just part of being a soldier – getting on with it.”
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment celebrated with cups of tea, festive hats and Christmas jumpers.
In Lashkar Gah, hundreds of soldiers and spectators gathered in costumes for the Lash Dash, a 5K fun run for charity. Captain Callum Fraser, 28, a Royal Military Police officer from Helensburgh, dressed up as a robot covered in tinsel and glitter, with Christmas crackers glued on. He said: “We’re just having a laugh. It’s Christmas – time to let your hair down.”
Captain Emma Wardall, 25, of 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “All the money we’ve raised will go to the Black Rat brigade charity and Lashkar Gah orphanage.”